A 50-year-old Hong Kong woman lost a total of HK$10 million (US$1.27 million) to an online scammer who claimed to be a United Nations peacekeeper.
The woman surnamed Ma, who lives in Tseung Kwan O in the New Territories, met a man on Facebook who claimed to be a United Nations peacekeeper in November 2017, the Oriental Daily reported. He told her that he was in Iraq. They became friends, despite never having met or even spoken via video calls.
Between January and March 2018, the man asked to borrow money from her, citing “financial difficulties”. Ma subsequently transferred a total of HK$1.7 million (US$216,600) into six different Hong Kong and mainland bank accounts.
In April, he then asked Ma to look after a safe containing US$1.5 million in banknotes, which he said belonged to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and were dyed black “to avoid detection.”
The following month, he asked her to go to Shenzhen and meet a “UN official”, who showed her how to clean the blackened cash using a special solvent.
The official sent the safe to the woman’s home in La Cite Noble but warned her not to open it. He then asked her to buy the solvents required to “clean the cash”. Ma handed over another HK$8.3 million in six money transfers.
Last Friday, when the solvent failed to arrive, Ma finally called the police. Citing a preliminary investigation, the police believe that the fraudsters are part of a South Asian criminal gang. No one has yet been arrested.
In 2006, an African “torture victim” approached a female IT manager by pretending to be a UN official and cheated her out of more than a million Hong Kong dollars in a similar online scam.